Thursday, July 2, 2009

High Water

Last Friday the Cedar river commenced rising and continued to raise until about 4 o’clock, Monday morning, when it was at its greatest highth [sic], being some 10 or 11 feet higher than at ordinary stages. About noon on Sunday [it] was discovered that the water was cutting away the [abutment] at the north end of the bridge, and nothing [but] the most prompt and energetic action saved at least [the abutment] from destruction, and perhaps the entire structure. The same day about 8 P.M., the south end commenced giving away, and a delay of twenty minutes would probably have been sufficient time for the water to have swept away that portion of the bridge. Sunday night just before 12 o’clock, the race bridge went off with a fearful crash. At this point had been erected a sort of temporary dam to prevent the water inundating the mills below. Against this vast quantity of logs and drift-wood collected and the pressure proved too great for the structure, and away it went. The road leading to Cedar City, which is formed by an embankment thrown up through a slough jutting out of the river is cut through and [through] by the water, so as to be impassable. – the [railroad] pile bridge just east of the depot is destroyed – the water cut the piling out, and swept it away leaving the stringers which are only supported by their [extreme] ends which rest on the banks. Also the bridge [still a] little further east, by the tank house, is severely [illegible] and one pile taken entirely out. The damage to the railroad is such that no freight can be received or shipped at this point until the damage is repaired.

The race embankment on the river side, just above the mills was cut through, and the water continues to pour through the gap in great volumes. We hear of no other damage to private property other than the loss of some lumber and logs which were swept away from the mill when the race bridge went. C. Bozarth lost 2,000 feet, John Keller sixty dollars worth, and several others were losers in small quantities.

Sunday afternoon the waters rose with fearful rapidity and when night set in presented a rather appalling aspect. Though it was apparent to all that should the water continue to rise during the night as rapidly as it had during the day, the danger to the bridge and several buildings was imminent, yet but three men thought it worth while to stay and watch the freaks of the angry waters, and from ten till four o’clock these men were unceasingly employed in fighting back the devastating flood. They undoubtedly saved the river bridge from being swept away. During the night they discovered that the water had again commenced cutting away the abutment, and only with great difficulty succeeded in stopping the break. The water also commenced running over the road leading to the bridge and had they not been there to throw up an embankment to turn the water back, it would have swept away Barnum and Melendy’s new warehouse. The names of these three men are P. Melendy, Byron Culver, and Daniel Willard, and they deserve great credit for their exertions that night. The two latter had no personal interest at stake whatever, and deserve all the more credit on that account. It was a trying position in which to place three men, when there was work enough for fifty, and where so many interests were at stake. Yet they were true to their trust and during all of that long night, the battled for the victory and gained it. The bridge leading into town being gone, they could not go for help.

The water lacks a little of being within three feet as high as during the great flood four years ago. It is providential that we have had no rains, for if we had the business part of the town would surely have been inundated.

Thursday morning the water again commenced to rise, this morning being as high as at any previous time during the freshet. In consequence of there being no flood gate at the head of the race the water continues to pour through there with a constantly increasing force. The banks on either side of the race are slowly, but surely being cut away from the swift current. The damage already sustained must be near eight hundred or a thousand dollars. Mr. Henry’s new building and Darrah’s grocery store are in great danger of being undermined and swept down stream. The race must be damned [sic] at its head before the ravages of the water can be prevented to any extent. Maggarth’s blacksmith’s shop on the north bank of the race is about to take a dive; Barnum & Melendy’s warehouse has been in danger, but it is now thought to be averted by the forming of the breakwater out of tree tops, logs, brush, etc. Stead and Huffman saved their dry house by removing it.

The cause of the swift current through the race and the attending danger and loss, was the breaking away of the embankment just above the mills and the destruction of the bridge and temporary dam which were depended upon to keep the water back. Unless steps are immediately taken to shut off the water at the head of the race, we are afraid that we have as yet experienced but a small part of the damage which will result from allowing the water to pour through the channel uninterrupted – Cedar Falls Gazette.

– Published in the Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, April 12, 1862, p. 1

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